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In double-helical DNAs, the most stable Watson-Crick (WC) base pair (bp) can be in thermal equilibrium with much less abundant Hoogsteen (HG) bp by the spontaneous rotation of the glycosidic angle in purine bases. Previous experimental studies showed that in the case of a G·C bp, the population of the transient HG is enhanced as a protonated form (HG+) through the protonation of the cytosine base under weakly acidic conditions. Hence, pH is a key factor that can modulate this transition event from the WC to HG+ bp. In this study, to computationally probe the overall free-energy landscapes of this pH-modulated G·C HG breathing, a comprehensive classical molecular dynamics (MD) simulation protocol is proposed using an enhanced sampling MD in conjunction with the standard thermodynamic integration method. From this MD protocol proposed, the free-energy surfaces of the G·C bp transition from the WC to HG bp were constructed successfully at any pH range, producing pH-dependent free-energy quantities in close agreement with previously reported experimental results. The simulation protocol is expected to provide valuable atomistic insight into the DNA bp transition events coupled with protonation or tautomeric shift in a target bp.


Hyeonjun Kim, Changwon Yang, Youngshang Pak. Free-Energy Landscape of a pH-Modulated G·C Base Pair Transition from Watson-Crick to Hoogsteen State in Duplex DNA. Journal of chemical theory and computation. 2021 Apr 13;17(4):2556-2565

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PMID: 33689343

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